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MP BJP is wary of upper caste backlash, sends SOS

Published : Sep 10, 2018, 1:02 am IST
Updated : Sep 10, 2018, 1:02 am IST

OBCs had joined the upper castes to make the Bharat Bandh on September 6 in MP a success, causing nervousness in the BJP.

Upper caste protesters hold placards and banners against reservation during ‘Bharat Bandh’ in Madhya Pradesh.
 Upper caste protesters hold placards and banners against reservation during ‘Bharat Bandh’ in Madhya Pradesh.

Bhopal: The decision to amend the SC, ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act by the Centre, widely seen as strategic perception management move by the BJP to make a dent into the base of Mayawati-led BSP and Congress among the underprivileged communities, may boomerang on the saffron party in the year-end Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh due to widespread protests by the upper castes against the move.

The warning was sounded by upper caste BJP leaders in MP in the form of an “SOS” sent to the central high command seeking “impact creating” corrective measures “urgently” to assuage ruffled feathers of a particular section of people and prevent a backlash.

“The anger among the ‘savarnas’ (upper castes) is too deep rooted to be contained by any small measures. It has to be big impact-making steps by the Centre to prevent them from landing in the fold of Congress out of vengeance,” a senior Madhya Pradesh BJP leader, not willing to be quoted, told this newspaper.

The “spontaneous response” to the September 6 Bharat Bandh, supported by upper caste, anti-quota outfits in MP, have forced state BJP leaders to press the panic button. Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan also dropped hints on a series of sops being in the pipeline for the upper castes to assuage their ruffled sentiments.

The chief minister’s hints on a largesse for the upper castes in coming days seemed to have hardly convinced the upper caste BJP leaders who fear losing hold over their vote banks.

 “The move apparently aimed at making a dent in SC bases of BSP and Congress may upset ruling BJP’s apple cart in the year-end Assembly polls in MP,” said a senior BJP leader.

His apprehensions come in the wake of a decision by Samanya Pichravarg, Alpsankyak Kalyan Samaj (SAPAKS), floated as a social organisation a couple of years ago to espouse the cause of upper caste and OBC employees of the MP government, to take a plunge into the year-end Assembly polls in the state by fielding its candidates in all the 230 seats.

“We may cut into votes of mainly the BJP in the polls,” said SAPAKS president Hiralal Trivedy, a retired IAS officer.

Brahmins (5 per cent), Thakurs (2.5 per cent), Banias (trading community) (three per cent) and Kayasthas (2.5 per cent) are the key upper caste voters who constitute around 13 per cent of the total population in Madhya Pradesh.

OBCs comprising Yadavs, Kurmis, Lodhis, and Kushwahas, Nais, Nahars and Nishads constitute around 60 per cent of total population of the state. The gap between votes garnered by the BJP and the Congress in the last three Assembly elections in the state has hovered around 8.5 per cent and any decision by the upper castes to desert the BJP may bring Congress to power.

“If the upper castes, considered party’s base in urban areas, dump the BJP in favour of the Congress it may upset the calculation of the BJP, which is eyeing a fourth consecutive term in power in MP in the coming Assembly polls,” said Nivedita Mishra, a retired political science professor.

If the OBCs, equally aggrieved over the move by the Centre’s decision to amend the SC/ST Act, decide to turn against the BJP, then it would spell doom for the saffron party in the MP polls.

Significantly, OBCs had joined the upper castes to make the Bharat Bandh on September 6 in MP a success, causing nervousness in the BJP.

“We have decided to launch an intensive week-long campaign across the state to break the emerging alliance between OBCs and the upper castes over the issue by convincing them that the OBCs may lose the privilege of reservation if they find a common cause with the upper castes since the latter are against the whole reservation system,” a senior leader, part of BJP’s think tank, disclosed to this newspaper.

He, however, revealed that the decision taken by the Central leadership of the party to amend the SC/ ST Act was a strategic one to counter the Congress’ propaganda dubbing the BJP as anti-dalit ahead of Assembly elections in the BJP-ruled states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.

“The BJP has been battling a perception that it is anti-dalit because of incidents like Una flogging in Gujarat. The Congress exploited this perception by almost snatching Gujarat from us in last year’s Assembly elections there,” said a BJP leader.

The amendment to the SC/ ST Act by Centre will help the BJP blunt any attempt by the Congress to call the saffron party anti-Dalit during the campaign in poll-bound states of MP, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.

Moreover, a radical step like this will not only endear our party to voters, particularly the dalits, but also help clear the path for the BJP to replace Congress as pan-India party,” said a Central BJP leader from MP.

“We can always find a way to assuage anger of upper castes to retain our base among them,” he said.

According to a post-poll survey conducted by Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) in 2014, the BJP’s share of votes of upper castes, OBCs and SCs has registered an increase from 35.3 per cent to 47.8 per cent, from 25.2 per cent to 33.8 per cent and from 14.5 per cent to 24.5 per cent, respectively, between 2004 and 2014.

Tags: prevention of atrocities act, madhya pradesh assembly elections, shivraj singh chouhan